Little League International looks elsewhere for headquarters

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The Pulte Homes proposal shows a development just south of the 15 acres that was slated for Little League International’s Central Region Headquarters at 8602 E 500 S. (Submitted photo)

In the wake of a petition started by Zionsville residents earlier this week, Little League International has announced that they will begin the search for an alternative site for their headquarters, the planning of which was currently in the works for a 15-acre property at 8602 E. County Road 500 South in Zionsville.

During a June 5 Zionsville Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, Little League Chief Financial Officer Dave Houseknecht read a statement from Little League International CEO Stephen Keener.

“Little League International believes it’s in everyone’s best interest to begin exploring other options, both with the Zionsville Local Organizing Committee and potentially elsewhere within our central region,” it stated.

“We take pride in being a community-based organization and a place where people can come together to provide children an enjoyable, meaningful activity,” the statement continued. “Through the relocation process, we have become increasingly aware of animosity and ill feelings from the Zionsville community toward the proposed site for our potential relocation.”

For months, remonstrators have expressed concerns with a Pulte development tied to the Little League project. If the project gained town approval, Pulte planned to purchase the entire site and donate a portion of it to Little League International for the Central Region headquarters. It would then build a 78-home development next to the headquarters and count the fields as its required green space.

Pulte’s proposed zoning appeal included reduced front yard and building line setbacks and reduced perimeter street buffers. However, at the June 5 meeting, Pulte asked for a continuance until the July meeting.

Project concerns from nearby residents

A group of Zionsville residents created the website zvilleprojectconcerns.com and launched a petition earlier this week. Apprehensions include increased density and traffic, decreased property values and more. The petition itself, attached to the website, is titled “Oppose Pulte Fields” and did not mention Little League International. It has been updated to clarify that it is not in opposition to Little League, only Pulte. However, zvilleprojectconcerns.com outlines several bullet points relating specifically to Little League.

“Little League headquarters will be a private property and not open to the public.  It will be fenced and secured from public entry. It is NOT a community asset,” the website reads.

The website goes on to say that Little League International will not be paying taxes on its 18-acre parcel of prime Zionsville real estate, and that having the Little League headquarters this proposed location actually poses minimal benefit to Zionsville merchants.

Karen Barnes, a Zionsville resident whose property is near the development, was one of the founders of this website and petition. Barnes says that she is personally not opposed to an in-zone housing development, and just wants any new development to be consistent to Zionsville Comprehensive Plan.

Zionsville’s current Comprehensive Plan was adopted by the Town Council in 2003. A 2014 amendment states, “New residential areas are proposed throughout rural Zionsville adjacent to existing residential development. With respect to underdeveloped property that is currently adjacent to land developed at 1.75 dwelling units per acre or less, the new development should be consistent with that existing density.” It also says, “A variety of open space preservation techniques should be employed to insure new development respects the existing scenic features of the landscape.”

Barnes says she would welcome Little League International in the right spot.

“I personally don’t oppose Little League, and I don’t believe that is the position of the website,” Barnes said, “But we also want an informed public. I want clarity for the public on what Little League will be and won’t be for Zionsville.”

Kevin Schiferl, another resident with property facing the proposed building site, has also been involved with the remonstration efforts. Schiferl appeared before the Town Council on June 4 to petition last month’s approved rezoning. Among other stipulations, he asked that no public funds from any town-controlled account be allowed to be expended for the Pulte/Little League project without public and transparent procedure in place, with public input allowed.

“Not a lot of our questions are getting answered,” Schiferl said in an interview.

Schiferl also stated that he thought it was wrong for the town to sell this project as an economic benefit to Zionsville, because visitors would likely spend money on food and hotels in Whitestown.

“Once Little League owns the dirt, they pay no taxes. They are not paying anything to us,” Schiferl said. “The thing that is stated is that it will bring in people to our town and they will spend money, but most of that money will end up going to Whitestown.”

At an impasse with developers

Scott Mairn, division president for Pulte Group, says there is a fundamental disagreement between the neighbors and the Little League/Pulte Group developers on the definition of what open space can be.

“We see it differently and unfortunately we are an impasse,” Mairn said.

He does, however, admit that a lack of early transparency with the neighboring residents could have been a misstep in planning.

“We could have met with them earlier in the process, but however there were a lot of moving parts that restricted us on time,” Mairn said. “There were a lot of questions that weren’t answered and I wasn’t comfortable having discussions with anyone.”

He is also not convinced it would have changed the outcome.

“Zionsville is a great place, the neighbors are extremely nice people. We all respect each other,” Mairn said. “I just don’t think that there was going to be any sort of compromise that was palatable for those neighbors.”

But Mairn said Pulte continues to work with Little League and the town of Zionsville.

“We think Little League headquarters on the site identified is still the best option for the town,” Mairn said. “But at the end of the day, if the town and Little League International have the opportunity for a different site, we respect that. We want to see the Little League headquarters stay in the town of Zionsville or at least in Boone County. We think that’s the best thing for everybody.”

In terms of Pulte’s future with this project and whether or not they will proceed with development, Mairn said, “We are evaluating our options.”

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